Car Rental in United Kingdom – Pros and Cons
Now, let me modify the above statement, just a smidge. If your goal is to visit London, and one of two of the other large cities, then this article isn’t for you.
But if you are like us and you want to explore the small, out-of-the-way, unique places that populate Wales, Scotland, and England, then renting a car from a company like Auto Europe. This is the very best way to take it all in. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of car rental in United Kingdom.
Renting a car offers you so much more flexibility and freedom to take in some of the smallest and most out-of-the-way places in the UK. Read that as most interesting and unique. Is it possible to reach the villages and towns with tons of character by public transit? Most likely, but the amount of time that it would take is more than we care to experience.
The last time we were in the UK with a rental, we were able to make last-minute changes to our itinerary to take in things that we hadn’t even heard of until we saw a sign pointing off the main track. By following that sign, we were led to one of the most attractive of the many smaller castles that can be found in the English countryside.
We never would have seen Sudeley Castle and Gardens in the Cotswolds. And, as it turned out, we found that Jo was related to these folks, too.
2) Ease of Transporting Luggage
As far as we are concerned, one of the biggest pains of using any kind of mass transit is the struggle that comes with luggage handling. Even if you keep luggage to a minimum of one carry on and a personal bag, as we do, boarding trains, planes, and buses can be a real… nightmare. Having a car really minimizes that.
We have pulled our bags along cobbled streets, across tram tracks, over curbs, up and down hills. And, believe me, when I say, that being able to drive up to your hotel or b & b is one heck of a lot easier! When possible!
Of course, if you insist on packing a steamer trunk and more, you are more than likely going to still have a battle. European cars are usually quite a bit smaller than the monstrous, lumbering boats driven by many in the States.
3) Spotted Chicken Adventures
What’s a Spotted Chicken Adventure, I hear you asking? It’s a serendipitous moment of unknown explorations. I can not tell you how many times we have been driving through the countryside and have seen some sign, or interesting sight on the horizon. It’s at times like these that we just wing it, and off we go on an SCA. Having a car rental makes that all the easier.
4) No Timetables
There are very few timetables that you have to worry about with a rental car. Sure there maybe the occasional ferry or some such, but, by in large, you are free to come and go as you like. No train or bus schedule telling you when to get up. You make your own schedule each and every day.
Up until now, I’ve been extolling the virtues of renting a car to see the best of the United Kingdom. But, I know you must be thinking that there have to be some negatives to hiring a car. And, there are.
1) City Driving
If you are going to be spending your time in large cities, do not rent a car. Heck, even in some smaller cities, driving is a trying experience. Most European cities, the UK included, were not built with cars in mind. The streets are uber narrow, there are maddening one ways, and let’s not even get into the subject of parking. Our first time into Bruges was a real nightmare. I learned my lesson from that experience.
Getting used to the signage can be a real challenge too. I suggest you take some time BEFORE you go to study the meaning of the signs. At first, some of them can be really confusing, but after a bit they will begin to make sense. Learn them ahead of time though.
3) Left vs Right
Of course, the biggest challenge for renting a car in the United Kingdom, for some, is the side of the road that is driven on. It takes only a little bit of time to get used to though. One last, comment. Renting a car in the UK and Europe means you will get a manual transmission, unless you specifically request an automatic, for which you will pay more.
Now, I hope that you don’t let those few, minor, cons dissuade you. Renting a car is a great way to see parts of the country that are often overlooked by travelers, because of the difficulty of getting there via train or bus. We almost always end up getting a car at some point on all of our trips.
Bon voyage and enjoy your European road trip.
We were fortunate enough to partner with Auto Europe on our Ultimate United Kingdom Road Trip. Our review is an honest account of our experiences.
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